Archive for Thursday, May 17, 2001

Judge denies Pfannenstiel new trial

May 17, 2001

A Leavenworth County judge has denied a motion granting former Basehor Mayor John Pfannenstiel a new trial.

Judge Frederick Stewart's decision came despite an expert witness testifying during a hearing last week to the authenticity of documents that discredit the testimony of key prosecution witnesses.

Pfannenstiel, 39, was convicted March 23 on three felony counts of having sexual relations with inmates when he was a corrections officer at the Lansing Correctional Facility. He was acquitted on one charge of smuggling contraband into a correctional facility.

The documents in question are two statements allegedly signed by Lansing inmate Charles "Opie" Jones, a key witness in the trial.

However, the second document has become the most controversial. It allegedly discredits Jones's testimony, stating he made up the accusations, so he and two other inmates could file a civil lawsuit against Pfannenstiel and the Kansas Department of Corrections.

Stewart denied the request for a new trial and agreed with prosecutor Roger Marrs, saying the defense had an opportunity to introduce the controversial document during trial.

"The only way that document would have gotten into evidence was for Mr. Lober (Pfannenstiel's attorney) to testify, and Mr.Lober chose not to do that," Marrs said in his closing argument. "The defense is not entitled to a new trial because they are dissatisfied with the outcome after pursuing a strategy that didn't work."

The documents were not admitted at trial because Jones denied he signed them. Lober was present when Jones supposedly signed the documents and was given the opportunity to testify to the veracity of the document by the court, Stewart said.

Lober said he chose not to testify on behalf of his client because it was unethical.

"It is presumptively unethical for a lawyer to testify in a trial in which he is acting as the chief lawyer," Lober said.

"Maybe I should have gotten on the witness stand to testify, but hindsight is 20-20," Lober said. "The fact of the matter is that Charles Jones committed perjury and everyone in this courtroom knows it."

At the motion hearing, Stewart heard the testimony of forensic handwriting analyst Richard Fahy. Fahy said he conducted numerous examinations and determined the signature on the documents belong to Jones.

Following Stewart's ruling, Pfannenstiel said he was unhappy with the decision, although he was not ready to quit in an effort to clear his name.

"It is very difficult to get a new trial when people come to the courtroom, raise their right hand and swear to tell the truth, and begin lying," Pfannenstiel said. "There are still some things I can't say because I haven't gotten the result in my favor yet. There are still some monumental accusations that I will make against the prison officials and perhaps the county attorney's office once we get things resolved."

The next step for the defense will be to file an appeal with the Kansas appellate court after a sentencing hearing scheduled for June 8.

Lober said he will also ask the county attorney's office to investigate into the allegations of perjury against Jones as well as other inmates at Lansing.

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